The Winder City Council has approved several coronavirus-related emergency measures — including a citywide curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., the closure of certain businesses (entertainment, recreational and personal grooming) and a ban on dine-in services at restaurants and most public gatherings — effective at 12 a.m. Tuesday, March 24, in an effort to combat the spread of the worldwide pandemic. The ordinance passed is in effect until 11:59 p.m. April 6.
The council voted unanimously for the ordinance during a teleconference meeting Monday evening, March 23, after Gov. Brian Kemp, about two hours earlier, announced a two-week statewide ban on all gatherings of more than 10 people unless they can assure spacing of at least six feet between people at all times.
Kemp ordered the closing of bars and nightclubs across the state and his order gives the state public health department the authority to close all business and nonprofits — including churches — that do not abide by the regulations. All “medically-fragile” residents have been ordered to shelter in place for two weeks.
The council called a 3 p.m. meeting Monday to discuss potential measures and a declaration of a public health state of emergency in the city, but recessed about 20 minutes in after at least two members said they wanted to hear from Kemp and what statewide actions he might be take. City attorney John Stell recommended the recess in order for the council to remain in compliance with notification laws.
The ordinance approved goes further than Kemp’s statewide order in several respects.
•During the curfew period, people are ordered to remain in their homes unless they are providing designated services such as public safety, medical services, military services or utility emergency repairs. Other exceptions include those in need of medical attention; people traveling to and from their jobs with appropriate identification; those traveling to medical facilities; those delivering food, medicine, medical supplies or fuel; news media employees; and for other “essential functions.” Those in violation would be subject to a fine up to $1,000, Stell said.
•Entertainment and recreational facilities, as well as massage parlors, hair and nail salons, and “any facility used for an activity that involves prolonged physical proximity of individuals” are ordered to close for the duration of the ordinance period. Grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses that remain open must post signage on their entrance doors informing consumers to maintain six feet of distancing.
•Restaurants are not allowed to have dine-in services but can offer takeout services, given that employees, patrons and contractors must maintain at least six feet between themselves as much as possible. Restaurants with alcohol licenses can sell unopened bottles or cans of beer or wine for take-out consumption off the premises. The alcohol may not be transported in cups. Several restaurants around downtown had already restricted or eliminated their dine-in services or were announcing plans to do so Monday.
•All public and private social gatherings of 10 or more people outside of a living unit are prohibited, except for the purposes of carrying on business certified as “essential” by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, designated by the governor as “critical infrastructure” or the provision of medical or health services. Public gatherings of 10 or more people on city property are banned.
The emergency declaration also states that the city will not disconnect any utility service during the emergency period. After the emergency period, people have 30 days to make payments in full. It also gives the mayor certain discretion and authority related to the classification of city services and procurement policies and extends the deadline for city-issued certificates, permits and other approvals by 15 days after the emergency period.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s latest update at 7 p.m. Monday, there were 800 coronavirus cases in the state and 26 people had died from COVID-19, the disease the virus causes. The DPH is updating its totals now twice daily — noon and 7 p.m.
Mayor David Maynard said Monday he was in on a conference call with officials at two of the state’s largest hospitals and said the information they presented was “very sobering.” Maynard said those on the call were told by physicians that the state has “24 hours to take action or we will have no chance of slowing this down.”
Maynard urged the council to take strong action.
“I personally, in the last 24 hours, have moved a long way in studying this and hearing from (public health officials and health care professionals),” Maynard said. “I think the general population is a little behind where I am now as far as how seriously we should take this and acting early to (change the outcome).
“…We really need people to stay in place. Everybody can’t do that and we understand that. But everybody who can stay home needs to.”
While the council agreed the city won’t possibly be able to enforce the “six-feet rule” at every business, “businesses have got to do their part,” councilman Chris Akins said. He said the city should particularly reach out to grocery store managers to make sure they’re having people actively practice “social distancing.”
The council considered making the nighttime curfew voluntary but ultimately decided a mandatory curfew, with the aforementioned exceptions, would have more teeth and have a better effect.
“We’re all going to have to make responsible choices and you’re going to have to do what you think is right for your family,” councilwoman Holly Sheats said. “We’re doing what we can with this. I think some of it is an overreach, but I understand the severity of the situation.”
Below is the full ordinance approved by the council Monday evening. The council is likely to meet before April 6 to either cancel or extend the emergency declaration and its provisions.
A DECLARATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY ARISING
BECAUSE OF COVID-19; AN ORDINANCE TAKING
IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY MEASURES
WHEREAS, the President of the United States declared a National Public Health Emergency on March 13, 2020; and
WHEREAS, the Governor of the State of Georgia declared a State Public Health Emergency on March 14, 2020 and urged “local officials to do what’s in the best interests of their communities to keep people safe and stop the spread of coronavirus” on March 19, 2020; and
WHEREAS, the World Health Organization has declared Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) a world health emergency and a pandemic; and
WHEREAS, the number of confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 is escalating rapidly, internationally, nationally, and locally; and
WHEREAS, based upon the experience of other local governments in Georgia, a growing number of other cases are likely to occur; and
WHEREAS, on March 16, 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the President of the United States stated that any gathering of over 10 people should be discontinued or prohibited; and
WHEREAS, public health experts, including those at the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have advised that individuals infected with COVID-19 are contagious even while experiencing minor or no symptoms and implored leaders to take immediate action to prevent further community spread of COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, preventing and slowing community spread of COVID-19 provides health systems additional time to obtain personal protective equipment necessary to protect health care workers and medical equipment necessary to treat COVID-19, and is therefore vital to the health of the nation;
WHEREAS, in the judgment of the City Council of the City of Winder, there exist emergency circumstances located within its jurisdiction requiring extraordinary and immediate response for the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the community, the state, and the nation; and
WHEREAS, it is essential for the governing authority of the City to act immediately in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent or minimize sickness, injury, or death, to people and damage to property resulting from this public health crisis; and
WHEREAS, O.C.G.A. § 38-3-28 provides the political subdivisions of this state with the authority to make, amend, and rescind such orders, rules, and regulations as may be necessary for emergency management purposes to supplement rules and regulations promulgated by the Governor during a State of Emergency; and
WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has previously held that “[u]pon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”; and
WHEREAS, the Charter of the City of Winder provides the governing authority of the city with the authority to take actions deemed necessary to deal with such an emergency for the protection of the safety, health, and well-being of the citizens of the city; and
NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY DECLARED that a local state of emergency exists within the City and shall continue until the conditions requiring this declaration are abated.
THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED AND ORDAINED BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF WINDER, GEORGIA AS FOLLOWS:
Section 1. Findings of Fact
For purposes of describing the circumstances which warrant the adoption of an emergency ordinance, the governing authority of the City hereby adopt and make the findings included in the “WHEREAS” clauses as findings of fact.
Section 2. Declaration of Public Health State of Emergency
The City Council hereby declares a public health state of emergency within the City of Winder because of the proliferation of COVID-19 in the United States and the State of Georgia, which will remain in force and effect until 11:59 p.m. on April 6, 2020.
Section 3. Public Gatherings on City Property
For the duration of the declared emergency, there shall be no public gatherings on any property owned or controlled by the City. To avoid confusion, the following definitions shall apply under this Section: a “public gathering” shall mean the organized gathering or assembly of ten (10) or more persons at a specific location; “property owned or controlled by the City” shall include any park, public square, public space, playground, recreational area, or similar place of public gathering, but nothing herein shall prohibit individuals or families from using sidewalks or designated pedestrian areas of parks for walking or other exercise if they are not participating in an organized gathering. The City Council and all other boards, commissions or agencies of the City, shall have authority to conduct meetings and take votes by teleconference in accordance with O.C.G.A. Section 50-14-1(g). The Mayor shall have authority to cancel any regularly scheduled meeting of the Council or of any board, commission or agency of the City during this emergency.
Section 4. Utility Services
For the duration of the declared emergency, the City will not disconnect any public utility service provided by the City on account of non-payment. After the conclusion of the declared emergency, persons will have a period of thirty (30) days to make such payments before service may be disconnected.
Section 5. Classification of City Services
For the duration of the declared emergency, the Mayor shall be vested with the following discretion and authority, to wit:
(a) To categorize City services as either “required” or “discretionary,” and to periodically review and modify such categories.
(b) To assign specific employees to required or discretionary services, and to periodically review and modify such assignments.
(c) To use his or her discretion to permit employees to telework.
(d) To temporarily suspend the interruption of services to customers or the provision of discretionary services and to direct employees who provide discretionary services not to report to work until such time as the service suspension is lifted or until such time as the Mayor redirects the employee to other services.
(e) To contract for and expend non-budgeted sums and services, as may in his or her discretion be required to meet the demands upon government and services of the City for the duration of the declared emergency, including therein authority to spend such sums from the reserves of the City. Any such non-budgeted expenditures shall be reported to the governing authority of the City.
(f) To place limitations on access to, operation of and use of City facilities and buildings, modification of personnel policies and other actions consistent with Federal and State law, rule, regulation or guidance.
Section 6. Tolling of Deadlines
Any deadlines for the purchasing or obtaining of occupation tax certificates, permits or similar civil approvals mandated by the City Code shall be tolled for the duration of the emergency as established herein, and for 15 days thereafter.
Section 7. Eating Establishments
Restaurants and other eating and dining establishments where food is served must cease offering dine-in services but may continue preparing and offering food to customers via delivery, drive-through or take-out services. Patrons, employees and contractors of the establishments must maintain at least six (6) feet of personal distance between themselves as much as possible given the physical constraints of the premises. If a restaurant is licensed to sell beer and wine for on-premises consumption, such restaurant, during the effective dates of this ordinance only, shall be authorized to sell unopened bottles or cans of beer or wine for take-out consumption off-premises;
Section 8. Closure of Certain Businesses
Gyms, fitness centers, pools, social clubs, amusement facilities, bowling alleys, pool halls, theaters, massage parlors, nail salons, and any other similar facility, any facility used for an activity that involves prolonged physical proximity of individuals, and any facility used for entertainment, social, grooming, or general health and wellbeing purposes, must close and remain closed for the duration of this emergency.
Section 9. Personal Distance
Establishments such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and other businesses which remain open during the emergency must post signage on entrance doors informing consumers to maintain at least six (6) feet of personal distance between themselves and others as much as possible given the physical constraints of the premises.
Section 10. Social Gatherings
All public and private social gatherings of more than ten (10) people occurring outside of a household or living unit are prohibited. Nothing in this ordinance, however, prohibits the gathering of individuals for the purposes of carrying on business certified as “essential” by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 38-3-58 or designated by the Governor as “critical infrastructure” or the provision of medical or health services.
Section 11. Emergency Interim Successor to Manager/Administrator
The City Council desires to make certain that the chain of authority within city management is clear. If the Mayor is unable to perform his duties, the Mayor Pro Tem shall assume the duties of the Mayor. If the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem are unable to perform the duties, the Utilities Director shall assume the duties of the Mayor.
Section 12. Curfew
A curfew is imposed from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. effective immediately. Residents, unless “exempt individuals” as defined herein, shall remain in their homes or on their property during the curfew period. Exempt individuals include those individuals engaged in the provision of designated, essential services, such as (1) fire; (2) law enforcement; (3) medical and hospital services, including veterinary services; (4) military services; (5) utility emergency repairs; (6) persons seeking emergency medical services or hospital services; (7) individuals traveling to and from their jobs with appropriate identification and persons traveling to medical facilities; (8) individuals engaged in the delivery of food, medicine, medical supplies, fuel including, but not limited to, the re-stocking of grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores; (9) news media employees; (10) designated employees or agents of businesses designated by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency as “essential” pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 38-3-58; (11) persons providing necessary care of companion animals in the custody and care of an animal shelter, boarding facility, or kennel and persons walking personal animals; and (12) critical infrastructure businesses and employees as designated by the Governor or identified by U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
Section 13. Procurement
The City Council suspends the bid and competitive portions of the City’s Procurement Policy and authorizes the Mayor to utilize the emergency procurement provisions of City Code Section 7-1(b) and to utilize the single-source policy and to require departments to provide a written justification for the procurement during the effective dates of this Resolution and/or utilize any emergency procurement provisions contained. City officials shall continue to seek the best prices during the state of emergency.
All ordinances or parts of ordinances in conflict with the provisions of this Declaration are hereby suspended during the effective dates of this Declaration (or any extension thereof) and the terms and provisions of this Declaration shall prevail.